England head coach Eddie Jones insists the referees must be treated with respect as he prepares again to face a South African side who will be without a Rassie Erasmus at Twickenham.
Erasmus, the Springboks’ rugby director, will on Saturday complete a matchday ban imposed for publishing a series of sarcastic tweets criticizing officials during the Autumn Nations Series.
Wayne Barnes, who oversaw South Africa’s defeat by France on November 12, was slammed on social media in the wake of Erasmus’s comments.
The mastermind of the Springboks’ 2019 World Cup triumph has just returned from a year’s ban for posting an hour-long video criticizing Australian referee Nick Berry during last year’s Lions tour.
“Rassie could come in a laundry box! That’s been done before, right? Usually by the Tottenham manager! I’m sure he’ll get in there somehow,” Jones said.
“The only thought I would say is we need to respect the referees and take care of the referees. They are an important part of our game. What happened happened,” Jones said.
Jones has dropped his two vice-captains, Ellis Genge and Jack Nowell, as part of four changes to the starting XV that secured a dramatic late draw against New Zealand.
Genge is the victim of a redesigned front row that sees props Mako Vunipola and hooker Jamie George recalled, and the loose Leicester head has to settle for a spot on the bench where he’s joined by Luke Cowan-Dickie.
Alex Coles replaces Sam Simmonds on the blindside flanker, giving England the third line-out option Jones believes they need against South Africa to complete adjustments to the pack.
The only change on the back is Tommy Freeman for Nowell in his first appearance since hitting the show on the July tour of Australia.
“We were happy with Jack last weekend but we feel Tommy Freeman is coming into some form. He has good pace and will add something to the team,” Jones said.
“We are very happy with Alex’s progress. He was someone who wasn’t in our immediate picture at the start of autumn, but due to injuries and other issues, he found his way into the squad, did a really good job and got himself into the tally for a World Cup spot.
“He plays against some of the best players in the world. He won’t play Eben Etzebeth directly, but he will play against him and that’s a great learning opportunity.”
Manu Tuilagi wins his 50th cap on Saturday, 11 years after embarking on an international career marred by a string of serious injuries.
“It was a difficult time for Manu. The good news for us is that he’s been at every practice session for the past three weeks,” Jones said.
“Yesterday (Wednesday) we did a pretty tough session and he got through it all. We are very happy about his progress. And the progress of the team.
“This is another opportunity for the team to improve. In the first game of autumn against Argentina we started slowly and weren’t at our best, but we got a little bit better with every game.”